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Title: Carbon-water Cycling in the Critical Zone: Understanding Ecosystem Process Variability Across Complex Terrain

One of the largest knowledge gaps in environmental science is the ability to understand and predict how ecosystems will respond to future climate variability. The links between vegetation, hydrology, and climate that control carbon sequestration in plant biomass and soils remain poorly understood. Soil respiration is the second largest carbon flux of terrestrial ecosystems, yet there is no consensus on how respiration will change as water availability and temperature co-vary. To address this knowledge gap, we use the variation in soil development and topography across an elevation and climate gradient on the Front Range of Colorado to conduct a natural experiment that enables us to examine the co-evolution of soil carbon, vegetation, hydrology, and climate in an accessible field laboratory. The goal of this project is to further our ability to combine plant water availability, carbon flux and storage, and topographically driven hydrometrics into a watershed scale predictive model of carbon balance. We hypothesize: (i) landscape structure and hydrology are important controls on soil respiration as a result of spatial variability in both physical and biological drivers: (ii) variation in rates of soil respiration during the growing season is due to corresponding shifts in belowground carbon inputs from vegetation; andmore » (iii) aboveground carbon storage (biomass) and species composition are directly correlated with soil moisture and therefore, can be directly related to subsurface drainage patterns.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
  2. Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (United States); Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Contributing Orgs:
Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (United States); Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
Country of Publication:
United States